Recent house fires serve as reminder to check for working smoke detectors

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KANSAS CITY, Mo.  -- An overnight house fire that sent one firefighter to the hospital and left another person missing serves as a reminder to homeowners to have working smoke alarms.

The Red Cross Monday teamed up with firefighters and volunteers to go door-to-door, making people aware that free smoke detectors can be installed for them.

The Tri-Blenheim neighborhood, near 69th and the Paseo, has been identified by the Red Cross as having a high history of house fires. That's why those involved in this effort want to make sure every home here has a working smoke detector.

"We did a study on fire responses over the last four or five years and we have found in this particular zip code we have responded to approximately three fires every month over the last year or so," said JoAnn Woody of the American Red Cross. "That makes it a higher target area, a higher risk area. The homes are older in structure. We tend to take things for granted the longer you live in a home, the more you take for granted that everything is working properly."

As temperatures get colder the number of fires in homes often increases. Some people resort to inappropriate methods to keep warm, like using a stove or overloading a circuit with space heaters. The Red Cross says once a smoke alarm sounds, you only have about two minutes to escape the building safely, so a working detector can be the difference between life and death.

"If you go with the two greatest risk factors in a home, it would be not having a smoke alarm and secondly it's the inappropriate use of heating devices," said Floyd Peoples, Kansas City's fire marshal. "We are always getting the word out this time of year to make sure you have a heating device that works properly and that you use it properly. Follow the directions on that device."

The fire marshal wants to eliminate fire deaths by working proactively in neighborhoods like this one. Many people still have holiday decorations up that can catch fire. A group of volunteers making up a community emergency response team is also helping to spread the word.

The Heart of America Fire Chiefs Association recently received a $150,000 grant for smoke alarms, which will be given away in nine counties surrounding Kansas City.

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